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“My Ultimate Goal is to Give Back to My Community” | Face Reveal : Meet Vilina, TERI University Student cum Content Manager, R&L

Another day, another rockstar – who have blessed Roots & Leisure with the gift of time, sweat, passion, and positivity. We met almost 5 months ago after she sent us an email introduction; and we were supposed to get on a call the next day – but it never happened. 2 months later, we came across that email with details of the call appointment that somehow got postponed indefinitely. Finally made the call and she was on-board within 24 hours as our content manager. We didn’t discuss much but knew instantly that we were meant to work together.

Also, we haven’t met her in person yet – just like the many others who have worked and are working with us. Isn’t it wonderful when strangers help each other out, without ever meeting in person? Well, welcome to the world of Roots & Leisure!

Today, as a part of our #FaceReveal series, we would like to introduce you to Vilina – our content manager based out of Delhi. Born and brought up in Nagaland, an engineering graduate and now a Master’s student in TERI, Delhi, this ambitious young lady talks about her family, her struggles & learnings and her ultimate goal in life. She also walks us through a day in her life to share how she juggles R&L work with her crazy hectic campus schedule.

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  • Hi Vilina, please introduce yourself. Tell us what you do, and a little bit about your family – your roots.

My name is Vilina, 25 years old, and born and brought up in Nagaland. I am an engineering graduate (Civil Engineering) and currently pursuing  M.Tech in Water Science and Governance from TERI, Delhi. I grew up in a family of 5 siblings with 3 sisters, me and a younger brother, and with more than 40 first cousins (both maternal and paternal) where the girls outnumbered the boys in our family.

I admit that the pressures from the society I grew up in, were overwhelming with prejudices against women with regards to limitations in education, the right age for marriage, career choices etc. But what kept me focussed was a Nelson Mandela quote shared by my father, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” That has been a source of inspiration and motivation for me all along.

“In spite of coming from a small town, where going outside the state itself was an expensive affair, my father made sure that none of his daughters lacked anything, and were given equal attention as the son in the family – especially when it came to education. I was told that my father used to be a brilliant student but he could not pursue further studies due to family constraints. That regret however is compensated by his endless endeavors to ensure that all his 5 children gets the best of education. So in a way it turned out to be a blessing for the family.”

Vilina (Right) with her elder sister and dad. “They came to visit me in Delhi as I could not go home for Christmas last year.”

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Vilina with her dad and sister

  • How does it feel to stay far away from home? What were the challenges you faced, and how were you able to turn things around?

I used to be an extremely friendly person, and rather naive. But living in the city has made me stronger and somewhat thick-skinned. The challenges were mainly external, as personally, I did not face much hardships adjusting outside or living on my own. So external as in, people outside of North East knew very little about us – from our culture, our way of life, to sometimes even as basic as geographical information – even from fellow Indians.

“In the early days, some people would try to start conversations with me over ‘small talks’ like “Where exactly is Nagaland or Which country is that?” “Do you eat dog meat?” “Do you understand Hindi?” I was also not spared from being judged based on my looks, the way I dress and the color of my hair. I used to get upset and frustrated initially, but it doesn’t affect me negatively anymore because the more people I encounter and befriend, I realize that such unenlightened people are actually a minority; there are tons of people – in the country and abroad, who are fascinated by our people and our culture.

Also along the way, I also realized that these things will not go away completely – and most things are beyond my control to educate all of them. So I am not affected anymore by these things. I am rather extremely grateful for the journey, as the whole exposure and experience have made me stronger, independent and more woke as an individual.I have also made so many great friends from various parts of the country and the world, and have been able to build great relationships based on the things we like, and by embracing our differences and learning from one another.”

Vilina with her friend Ishita, whom she met on a field trip to Forest Research Institute, Dehradun

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Vilina with her friend Ishita

Vilina with her friend Ishita’s parents during Diwali celebrations.

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“Living away from home made me appreciate the little things and also people in my life. Sometimes my mom would parcel homemade pickles or fresh local vegetables from Nagaland, and that would just turn my frown upside down no matter how my day has been :)”

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Vilina with her mom

  • So what kinds of friends do you hang out with? What do you guys generally bond over?

My friends are all so spontaneous and total opposites of me. I like planning things ahead and having everything scheduled, and my friends sometimes want to watch a movie at 8 am, or go out for Pani Puri after super hectic 9-hour classes! But it’s fun, and I have begun to like this change too 🙂

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Vilina with her college friends

Honestly, by the time you are doing post-graduation, everyone’s busy working or busy with building a career so I wasn’t expecting much when I joined TERI for my Masters. But my first year was a blessing, I ended up spending Diwali at a friend’s house, who I just met during a college field trip. I’d like to think that I got so lucky to have met such wonderful friends, and I hope we stay friends for a lifetime.

“The one thing that I have in common with my friends would perhaps be our shared vision to be able to give back to our communities with whatever capacity we can, and to be able to use our learnings and knowledge for a greater good. We bond over our shared belief that to make a difference to even one person through our small contribution would be a blessing.”

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Vilina with her friends

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Vilina with her sisters

  • Tell us more about your course. What made you choose this particular domain of study?

I am currently pursuing an M.Tech in Water Science and Governance from TERI, Delhi. The course is unique and probably one of the first or perhaps the only university that provides this course in India so I was really interested. I learn about water conflicts, security, policy intervention, sanitation & hygiene, gender issues etc. It’s an interesting coursework.

“There is a lack of water professionals in our country especially in the North East so I wanted to take up something through which I’ll be able to give back to my society. If I am able to implement even 1 % of my knowledge and help my people, it would be all worth it, and that would make me extremely happy.”

Vilina’s campus – TERI School of Advanced Studies, Delhi

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Vilina’s Campus: TERI University

  • What are your hobbies and interests?

I write poems/journals and I end up saving 100s of notes on my phone. I enjoy the freedom that writing gives me. I also enjoy exploring small cozy cafes around the city, reading or working with a cup of coffee during my free time.

“I am also a fan of K-drama/K-pop and Korean culture in general. I am part of an event management team, which brings K-Pop entertainment to fans in India. I love traveling too, and I recently went on a work trip to Seoul, which was one of my best trips so far.”

Vilina wearing Hanbok at Bukchon Hanok village in Seoul

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Vilina wearing Hanbok at Bukchon Hanok village in Seoul, South Korea

Myeongdong Street Shot, Seoul

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Myeongdong Street Shot, Seoul

  • How has it been working with Roots and Leisure, and how do you manage the time given your hectic classes, field visits, internships and research papers?

When I started a couple of months ago, I was all over the place. I struggled, to be honest. I wanted to do my best but I had too much on my plate with a full time 9 -5 summer internship side by side and struggling with quarter-life crisis. Also, even on days when I am not in university, I am completing my term paper or doing my readings or scanning through reports/research papers. 

I’ll come back from office and would spend around 3 -4 hours to put together the articles, and coordinate with other team members. I would also use my lunch break to reply and send emails. So it was pretty tight. It is much better now as I am comfortable with the work processes and my summer internship has also ended. I have also planned the schedules so that I can spend weekends on R&L when I don’t have classes. Here’s how a typical day in my life looks like:

  • 7:00 am – Wake up, Pray and read the Bible, take a quick shower, dress up and rush off.
  • 8:30 – 6:30 pm – Classes
  • 1 pm – 2 pm -Lunch break
  • 8:00 pm – Come home, wash up, cook or order in
  • 9:00 pm – 9:30 pm – Ritual call at home or my mother gets dramatic 😀
  • 9:30 pm – 11:00 pm – Assignments, readings, and other college related work
  • 11:00 pm – 2 am – R&L work – drafting, editing, and emails

Now everything is scheduled and I have adjusted to the system so it feels better to be able to achieve the goal at the end of every week. Whenever I get free time, I play basketball with friends, and my off days are pretty much sleeping, cafes, doing laundry and more sleep 🙂

  • What motivates you to work for R&L?

I am a bibliophile. So is my mother and my elder sister. I have a love for reading and stories especially inspire me. Working as a part of the R&L team, I get to hear so many inspiring stories – especially from little-known folks who are extremely talented and interesting. I also love writing so being able to edit the stories of real-life people is pretty enjoyable. I feel I have further honed my social interaction and storytelling skills. These would definitely help me in connecting with people from all walks of life – in a more connected and personal manner.

  • What are your future plans?

I want to travel around the world. Tick off my bucket list and also, work for my people in Nagaland, and the North East region at large. I want to bring solutions to water-related issues around the region.

“My ultimate goal is to leave behind a legacy – small or big it doesn’t matter; I want to remind people that if a girl like me, from a small village, can make a difference, there is no limit to what they can do as well.”

Musings by Vilina

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Musings by Vilina

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